Wednesday, March 24, 2010

THX 1138

After my last entry, I feel a strong need to absolve myself by plugging a film of real quality. I place THX 1138 in that category. Most of us first heard the name George Lucas with the release of Star Wars. That established Lucas both as a master story teller, special effects wizard, and with his Indiana Jones series that followed, having a knack for pleasing wide audiences. Star Wars is probably one of the most broadly accepted science fiction films by the general public. But before all that, George Lucas released this marvelous, shall I say masterpiece? When I first saw it, which was not too long ago, my whole view of Lucas was turned upside down. He was, at least at one time, a bonafide independent film director with real vision. I don't knock his later foray into pop culture films at all, but it was quite a surprise to see the contrast - especially since it happened in the reverse order that you might normally expect. THX was George's FIRST major release.

Official Site (which used to be cool but is now located is Lucasfilm Ltd.)

The film is placed in a world where people are tagged with numbers and highly monitored and controlled via drugs and policing. Love, and sex, are prohibited, but the plot begins when a man (played superbly by Robert Duvall) and his female roommate go off their drugs, experience feelings, and do the deed. The rest of the movie involves their arrest and eventual escape. On the surface, it's not much of a plot. What makes the film great is the way it is directed. It has an artsy feel to it with lots of confusing and strange images and sparse dialog. Duvall's character seems almost in a constant daze as he struggles to make sense of his situation - and his own life. Another great aspect is the consistency of the theme, which although not a new one, is presented forcefully by showing crazy situations that the characters just take to be normal. Everything in the society is designed to keep people under control. At the risk of spoiling, one of my favorite scenes is an automated counselor (a backlit drawing of a messianic image in a booth) that spits out recorded phrases like "Yes, fine" and "Can you be a little more specific". It had me on the floor laughing, even though the film maintains a straight face. You can view it here (the first scene) if you don't mind the spoiler. The characters are put in real peril and maintain a sense of urgency throughout the film. In the end they make a discovery that makes for a nice, modest, finishing touch. I'm glad that George had a chance to get this film out there before becoming a celebrity.

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